On Monday I published a post called Red Meat Sin.  There is so much that I struggle with on a daily basis which results from being out of scripture or not really digging into scripture, even if I’m faithfully reading it.

It is not uncommon.  Whether temptation threatens to overtake you because, like me, you need protein or because you are tired, or wired, or you just got fired, giving into temptation is sin.  Somebody needs to get to me in those moments and help me get over myself.  Meat or no meat, there’s no excuse for harsh speech.  Whatever temptation you struggle with, sometimes you just need to get over yourself, too.  Like me, you need to be confronted in love.

But there are other times in life when the issues aren’t sin.  We can be so overwhelmed by something – or a series of somethings – that we lose our footing. And it can happen when we are being obedient and faithful and walking exactly where God calls us to walk.  In those moments, we don’t need someone to scold us for being on the wrong path, we need someone to hold our hand in the darkness and assure us the path is still there.  We need someone who can see the light we can no longer see.

I need friends who will call me out when I am “hangry” and I attempt to excuse a harsh tongue.  I also need friends who will call out to me when I cannot find my way in a harsh wilderness.  Both aspects of friendship direct me to Christ and restore me to serving him.

About a year ago, I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually depleted from an extended period of difficulty.  At that low point, our family and ministry received a blow I had no reserves to meet.  I wasn’t merely “hangry.” I reeled from the blow and staggered to find my footing.

For years I had faith made strong by gazing on the face of Jesus and he sustained me as I walked on the waves of ministry and motherhood.  But there came a time when the reality of the wind and the waves caught my attention away from Christ and threatened to overwhelm me.  I sank down.  I felt like I was drowning. (Matthew 14:25-30)

My prayers truly were groanings of the Spirit on my behalf.  I could articulate nothing and was so overwhelmed I did not know what to pray. (Romans 8:26)

My heart was parched and shriveled soil – the kind that shrinks for the obvious reason: lack of water. Soil in this state is made worse because plants draw out just about all the water from the soil. On top of that, blistering heat evaporates any remaining moisture.  Ground like that cannot absorb the water it desperately needs. My heart, depleted by life and heated circumstances draining my reserves, was parched.  I would read scripture, but the words washed away in torrents, leaving me desperate and thirsty.

Worship became this place inside filled with an empty silence, not an ominous silence or the silence of being abandoned, but something so intensely private.  Even in hindsight I cannot adequately explain it, but my awe of God grew.  Understanding my utter weakness and his strength, grasping the fullness of my failure and his victory, sharing the rejection Christ experienced… somehow all that mingled with the scripture hidden in the core of my being and fueled worship.  His Spirit ministered to my heart from the inside when nothing could penetrate from the outside.  I knew his patient presence even as I floundered to trust his sovereignty and goodness.

Like Peter on the water, “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of [me], saying to [me], ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'” (Matthew 14:31).

But there was this long pause between the moment when “he took hold” of me and when he whispered gently, “Why did you doubt?”

Like several months of pause.

Just as I felt kinship with Peter who sank beneath the waves, I felt kinship with Christ as he recovered from his time in the wilderness.

“Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.” (Matthew 4:11)

imageHis “hand” that took hold of me was a few precious saints who ministered to me in my distress.  Truly they were angels of mercy.

I know how helpless it feels to sit with a friend and listen to the unspoken ache echoing in the silence.  I know how inadequate it feels to simply hold a hand as someone grieves.  I am familiar with how empty a full casserole dish can appear when it is offered to someone in a time of deep sadness.

I now know, in a different way, the soothing balm of practical friendship applied in liberal doses.

You see, when these precious few took care of my children, held my hand, cleaned my house, dried my tears, kidnapped me to get a massage, listened to my ranting, took me to lunch, quietly and gently called up truth in my heart, fed my family, texted me loving notes, mulched my flower beds, and cried my tears with me, they were loving me.

They listened with their hearts fully engaged, even though it hurt.

It is painful to enter into someone else’s pain.  It is costly – and I mean more than the supplies and time needed to clean a house.  But please know, cleaning the house sometimes clears away more than dust and cobwebs.  Sometimes it creates a safe place for a broken spirit to heal.  Sometimes it clears the path out of the wilderness.

My friends sacrificed to restore me because of their love for Christ and for his kingdom. {Incidentally, they also love me. :)}  They comforted (as in fortified and strengthened) me so that I could serve his church again.  Not so I could enjoy happiness, but so I could enjoy holiness.  Which is the same reason they would confront me when I am “hangry.”

As women we need friendships that direct us to Christ like this.  We need women in our lives that love Christ even more than they love us.  And we need women who are compelled by their love for Christ to love us when we falter, regardless of the reason.  We need friends who love Jesus enough to call us out on our sin – but who also love Jesus enough to call out to us in the darkness.

 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.  Hebrews 10:24

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Photo Credits
Hands by Rhoda Baer (Photographer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Cracked Soil by L. Shyamal (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons